Is there really such a thing as a perfect eLearning module? Yes and no.

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for creating an effective course, so the “perfect” course is really one that engages your audience and addresses the needs and learning objectives relevant to your industry.

That being said, some eLearning modules are certainly a step above the rest.

Most of these modules have a few things in common, including strong learning objectives, advantageous use of media for delivery, and access to industry-specific knowledge with the help of Subject Matter Experts.

If you want your eLearning module to be effective and stand apart from the crowd, here’s what you need to know…

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1. Develop the Right Learning Objectives

One of the most important best practices for eLearning module development is defining the right learning objective for your audiences.

Knowing exactly what you want your learners to accomplish will help you organize your eLearning materials properly so learning becomes both effortless and immersive.

In order to set clear objectives, should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is the desired outcome of the module?
  • What should users learn or be able to do differently as a result?
  • How will users achieve the desired results?
  • How will users’ knowledge be tested before, during, or after the course?
  • What is the appropriate timeline for module completion?
  • How will we track retention after completion?

[Tweet “Understand that learning objectives are not the same thing as learning goals.”]

Understand that learning objectives are not the same thing as learning goals. An objective is the “essence” of the outcome you hope to achieve – it’s the broad picture (e.g. “We want employees to understand safety protocols for workplace machinery”).

Your module’s goals, on the other hand, will be very specific (e.g. “We want employees to learn about ladder safety within 3 weeks timeframe).

Goals will give you a specific pathway to achieve your objectives, so you should include both in your module overview. Your objectives should not include any elements or goals not directly relevant to the module.

A few of the most common learning objectives include comprehension, application, analysis, and evaluation. You will most likely want to put together an objectives statement for each separate module, and have this available to learners, instructors, developers and anyone else involved with the course.

2. Use Appropriate Media Formats

The best eLearning modules are not always the ones that utilize the newest and best technology. The best modules are those that use the right technology for their audiences.

While some organizations may consider PowerPoint presentations outdated, they may be beneficial for others that incorporate online training with classroom training, for example.

More mobile audiences may want to take advantage of gamification apps, infographics, or downloadable PDFs that can be accessed on the go, while others may prefer to have everything located on a central website.

The key to successful implementation of technology with your eLearning module is creating focused core message and determining which technology will communicate that message most effectively.

There’s no standardized solution for your module’s media needs. Factors that influence the “right” media formats for your materials could include:

  • Interactivity levels
  • Accessibility of content
  • Generational differences (understanding of technology)
  • Engagement factors: discussions, social elements, participation, etc.
  • Amount of reading materials
  • Content types: audio, audiovisual, and/or visual
  • Exams and assessments
  • Self-paced study vs. standard study
  • Gamification elements

Course materials that require high audience participation through discussion forums, simulations, and self-paced practice exams may involve more technology than modules that are made up of video lectures and reading assignments.

Remember that the delivery vehicle is ultimately less important than the content itself, but poor delivery can affect the reception of the content negatively, so it’s important to find the right method so that audiences can fully engage with the materials.

3. Partner with Subject Matter Experts

When it comes to effective eLearning, content is king. The course materials themselves should be highly educational, understandable, and provide valuable insight into industry-specific topics.

The best way to achieve this is by partnering with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to create content that helps learners answer tough questions about their roles and turn thoughts into actions.

In order to take advantage of SMEs time, make sure that you:

  • Outline course objectives clearly
  • Define the subject matters covered in each module
  • Define the audience each module will address
  • Determine whether or not you will need different SMEs for different topics
  • Set expectations for timelines for receiving content from SMEs
  • Provide SMEs with an outline of the course and any applicable information (storyboards, illustrations, research, etc.)
  • Record any answers from SMEs directly through writing or audio recording (for reference later on if needed)
  • Task someone from your team with gathering information from SMEs

When researching SMEs, look for someone who:

  • Has a documented history of working in their respective industry
  • Has both an educational and experiential background in the field
  • Understands the challenges faced by audiences working in the field
  • Can clearly articulate challenges and solutions to common industry problems
  • Has supported data and documentation to back up any theories or insights

Keep in mind that SMEs will not always be readily available for every industry or topic, and you might have to suss out experts from obscure places to find information pertinent to niche subjects.

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Final Thoughts

Some other factors to consider when looking to create the “perfect” module are design (use of imagery, fonts, colors, etc.) as well as breaking down content into segmentation for easy consumption.

But keep in the mind that design isn’t everything, and that the value of the content itself will generally outweigh even the fanciest-looking course.

In order to provide the most value with your content, take time to develop strong learning objectives and make sure that they make sense with your audience (and that they’re easily achievable in the allotted timeframe).

Look to SMEs and other industry professionals to provide insights that learners may not receive automatically on the job, and take advantage of any new technology to improve engagement throughout the process.

Jonathan Davis is an accomplished professional with experience helping Fortune 500 companies achieve success in employee communication and training programs. Jonathan focuses on delivering reliable, successful outcomes that increases employee engagement through highly targeted deliverables, creative messaging and robust programs.